What made a Society Girl become a Farmer? Answer: The Second World War.

Front cover of book A Woman's War

Every now and again as a journalist, you hear a story that sounds interesting, and the more you find out about it the more extraordinary it becomes. This is one of those… Wartime tales and extraordinary deeds wrapped up with local heritage are very much our thing at Focus and the Herald.” Gill Sutherland, Stratford Herald.

Share the thrill of achievement in World War II as Frances Donaldson pits herself against antagonistic men, recalcitrant cattle and the shortage of money, to succeed triumphantly by the end. A Woman’s War talks of farming and rural life, politics, high society and a soldier’s experiences, especially with the Russian allies. It has a strong unstated feminist flavour.

It is also a moving love story of two people of very different temperaments sustaining each other through 6 long years of war.

GREAT NEWS!  The book is now available on Amazon and in bookshops. Paperback or e-book.

Click here: Frances Donaldson: A Woman’s War, OR search for “Frances Donaldson” on Amazon.

Comment from a reader: Female farming in “The War”.  A laughing, crying, gripping, writer-to-be’s letters to her husband through five long years of separation. She, a famous playwright’s daughter from high society turned farmer, responds with candour and can-do to male dominance in the cowshed and the realities of the woman’s land army volunteers. A moving must-read of feminism two generations before its time coupled with the real smell of Britain before and after Dunkirk. The fear and the relief.” RobertBoyd

Frances Donaldson and Jack Donaldson
Jack and Frankie together again. Photo Denis Healey

For the letters as a blog: Start here    It’s best to read each blog in date order to get the full flavour.

Extra Items include some unpublished essays by Frances Donaldson among other things. I will add more soon.

For more details about Frankie and the Donaldson family read our About page.

Interesting blogs on WWII 

About the war letters

These war letters are surprising and probably unique in their scope and interest. Searching the internet I have been able to find only very few letters from women at home writing to soldiers. The majority of collections are the other way round.

Frankie and Jack agreed to write to each other every day when the war started. The promise was fairly well kept although inevitably over such a long period of time there were lapses. They used the methods of airgraphs, ordinary letters through the post, special postcards and what they called ‘cables’ – telegrams in today’s language. The range of methods was because each in its own way was unreliable. Sometimes they repeated important news in various different types of communication. Even so Frankie could rarely get a timely answer to her urgent questions, such as whether to spend all their capital buying the farm which they had talked about briefly.

Jack did not return from the war until July 1945. He was out of England first in the Phoney War from November 1939 till the retreat in June 1940and then, once the war began in earnest, he was sent abroad from November 1940 to April 1944 (without any home leave). After that he was based in Europe and had one or two short periods in England.

World War II, woman feeding pigs on the farm described in her war letters
Frankie feeding the pigs

Frankie later became a well-known writer and biographer. Her best-known works include Edward VIII, for which she won the Wolfson History Prize, The Marconi Scandal and a biography of P.G. Wodehouse.   Order A Woman’s War here

Learn More about Frances Donaldson and her family

A Woman's War